Work as Your Service to the World: A Personal Journey
Jul 31, 2019 11:08AM
By Yvette Patterson
If you did not have to worry about money and you knew that you could not fail, what would you do for a living?
This question has been asked of many friends over the years, usually after they have cried about their joyless jobs or horrible bosses. More often than not, the question causes people to lean back in their chairs and gaze upward in contemplation. Sometimes they look down, then close their eyes, becoming more introspective. Seldom does the answer reflexively roll from their lips. Though it did for me once.
A few years ago, my reiki healer asked me this question. Without pausing, I told her, “I would be a writer.” So why did it take me another three years to attempt to pursue writing as a profession? I simply did not trust my answer. It seemed irrational to think a creative pursuit could be firm and steady enough to support me or bring in extra income.
I had to break down many layers of the mental barrier that said, “That’s ridiculous. I can’t support myself like that.” Writing usually felt fun and liberating, so how can that be work? Work is not supposed to be fun; it should feel like drudgery. That’s why they call it work, right? That is certainly how we are conditioned to believe anyway. It is hard to believe that our means of support should feel as natural and easy as taking a deep breath upon waking.
There is a wonderful quote by American author and theologian Howard Thurman, which goes, “Do not ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Are you engaged in work that makes you feel alive? Do not confuse this with doing something that makes you feel comfortable.
We often get into the trap of settling for the life that makes us feel comfortable. We enjoy having enough money to buy the latest fashions or a new car every two years, a hipster high rise in the city or sprawling suburban hacienda. However, when the alarm clock goes off every morning, how many of us pull the covers overhead, feeling a pit of dread deep within over the thought of facing the new day?
The ideal morning routine would be much different. The alarm goes off, redundant because you were awake already. It’s so hard to sleep with the butterflies of anticipation stirring inside you, wooing you to begin your day as soon as possible. In fact, when you stopped “working” last night, you were eager for more and had to force yourself to stop and get some sleep. Now, you are grateful for morning because you get to contribute what you came here to do. (Nice that you get paid for it, too.) In other words, your work is simply an authentic expression of who you are. It is seamless. You know it because it fills you with passion and wonder. That’s how you know what is yours to do and how you contribute to the world.
When we wake up in the morning, we should aim to be ecstatic because we get to give from our authentic self, which feels almost effortless.
To get started toward this happier, freer life, we have to get past the mental resistance which manifests itself as procrastination, perfectionism and analysis paralysis. How do we get past the resistance? Just start where you are. “Just starting”, for me, meant finding a way to write even with a demanding full-time job and a horrendous commute. Upon arriving home in the evenings, I had just two hours before I had to get to bed. The only time that I could write was to designate a specific hour on Saturdays. Every Saturday at 10 a.m., I had an appointment with my computer to just write and express myself.
Sometimes it was difficult, but I kept this appointment because it felt like water for my parched soul. Would it be nice to write every day? Of course, but if you can only eke out an hour or two here and there doing what you love, take it. Something is better than nothing, and your soul will be grateful for the liberation.
Let’s return to our question: If you did not have to worry about money and you knew that you could not fail, what would you do?
Like many people, if you are drawing a blank, again and again, here’s a clue. The answer should be something that propels you out of bed in the morning. Whenever you do it you feel light, alive and inspired. In fact, it is unapologetically fun. It’s so much fun that you lose track of time and of yourself.
The reason why many of us have trouble answering the question is because we get too caught up in our heads and doubt that our joyful distractions could actually lead to financial security. Are we really supposed to feel light and happy all day long? Doesn’t that seem irresponsible? Work isn’t supposed to be happy, that’s why they call it work. Is it really that easy? Like stepping onto a swaying footbridge, at first, we just do not trust the joy to support us.
While we may believe that our passion is too light and inconsequential to support us, in reality, it really is a matter of training yourself to trust that feeling of levity. Compared to enduring the drudgery of going to a job that you hate, turning your passion into “work” is meant to feel like a luxury liner taking you to a much anticipated destination. The destination is a reconnection to your soul which is also your service to the world. The road to freedom does not have to be rocky or marred by the defeat of unfulfillment. Your heart’s desire is actually a beacon that lights the path to your blissfully best life and shows you how best to serve.
Overcoming the Block
Can you give yourself permission to live a joyful life? Maybe up until this time, you thought the purpose of your life was to suffer and be unhappy. Give yourself permission to live joyfully. Engage your heart and allow it to lead the way. Do this without imposing mental restraints. Very early on in life, many of us got the impression that we could not have what our heart desired, so we just gave up on our dreams. The pain of not expressing that love of our chosen activity was just too much. We buried the love and hope like a time capsule which memorialized an innocent era in which we believed we could have or do anything. We could not bear the disappointment of this not being true.
You can extract the time capsule by engaging in the activity simply for the joy of it. But here’s a caveat: do not mire that joy in fearful thinking like, “I can’t make money from this,” or “My talent is not good enough.” Do the thing just because it makes you happy and it brings feelings of ease, clarity and wonder. Do it because it brightens your life on some level. If the joy of it is your point of focus, that is the energy you will be emitting. Then, look out. Your world will change before your eyes.
The outside world will change in order to match your new inner vision. Your life has no choice but to become more joyful. Opportunities for you to engage in the thing will start appearing more and more, matching your new state of being. The outside world has to change because you changed.
Connect with Yvette Patterson at [email protected].